December conjures images of Christmas filled with traditions: Christmas trees, favorite holiday decorations, stockings hanging on the fireplace mantle, and a fire burning in the fireplace. While we prepare our homes for these joyous occasions, we must also pay attention to some basic safety recommendations to prevent your holiday being interrupted by a fire in your home. Please take a moment to review some of these basic safety recommendations that will allow you to enjoy this season to the fullest.
Let’s begin our safety discussion using the example from holiday scene from the paragraph above:
Christmas Tree Safety:
Live Christmas trees from a combustion point of view, have wood, and needles. To prevent a dry tree from being a flame source, be sure to purchase a tree that is not dry. The needles should be green and spring back when touched. Once a tree is in your home, cut two to three inches off the bottom and place the tree in water to allow the tree to better absorb water. The water should be replaced daily. The tree should not block any exits from the room.
Decorations should be non-flammable. Christmas tree lights should have an approval seal from a nationally recognized lab such as one approved by the American National Institute of Standards. Tree lights should be turned off at bedtime. Please don’t be tempted to overload your wall outlets with lots of extension cords and 3-way plugs.
Finally, fireplaces should be inspected by chimney professionals. Use the recommended fuel for your fireplace. Flue should be open if in use. A screen should be in place when fireplace is in use. Protect your hands with appropriate gloves. Use fireplace specific tools. Keep children and pets away from the fireplace. Be careful handling ashes which may be hot or still burning. Extinguish the fire in the fireplace if you are not able to monitor it, and always extinguish the fire before leaving the house and at bedtime.
General Fire Prevention:
The fire triangle tells us that a heat source, a fuel source, and oxygen are needed for a fire to ignite. Let’s look at the paragraph above with the stockings hanging on the fireplace mantle and a fire burning in the fireplace. That satisfies the fire triangle and thus creates a risk of fire. Stockings are fuel, the fire in the fireplace the ignition source, and oxygen is in the air. Safety experts have a 3 foot rule for fire prevention in the home: Maintain 3 feet of distance between any flame and any flammable object. Candles as an example, are a favorite holiday decoration. Candles are often the cause of home fires. Candles should not be near flammable objects. Lit candles or any flame, for the same reason should not be within three feet of furniture, curtains, newspapers, or magazines. If you have pets, be especially careful that candles are not in a place to be tipped over.
We love our Christmas Lights:
Lights can be a source of electrocution and fire. Before hanging Christmas lights look at each bulb on a string and the wire. Damaged bulbs can cause electrocution or shock. If bulbs are missing from the string, replace them. If bulbs are damaged replace them. Broken bulbs like any broken glass can cause cuts.
Do not string more than 3 strings of lights together.
Placement of light from a safety perspective depends on whether the lights are indoors or outdoors. Outdoor lights have contact with the ground, and therefore present an electrocution risk if in contact with water from puddles from snow or rain. Thus, these lights should be weatherproof and should be strung up. For the same reason plugs should not be placed directly on the ground. Christmas lights are not intended for long term use beyond the holiday season. Lights, whether indoors or outdoors, should have a seal of approval such as Underwriter’s or a lab certified by American National Standards Association. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before stringing lights.
And to repeat an important tip, please don’t be tempted to overload your wall outlets with lots of extension cords and 3-way plugs.
We’ll wrap up with a safety tip regarding the use of ladders. Consider these tips as you prepare to get up on the ladder to reach Grandma’s special dishes or hang the special ornament to the top of the tree:
- Always keep the 3 points of contact rule. Maintain two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet, when climbing or descending a ladder.
- Always inspect the ladder before use for any damage (e.g. broken steps, bent frames, frayed fiberglass, etc.)
- Always open an A frame ladder completely for proper use. An A frame ladder looks like the letter A when viewed from the side.
- Always make sure the feet of the ladder are on stable ground. The ladder should not be wobbling when you go to climb.
- Always use the 4 to 1 rule when leaning a non-A frame ladder (extension ladder) against the wall: For every 4 feet of height needed to climb, move the base of the ladder 1 foot away from the wall. Be aware of the gusty winds before climbing up to the roof.
- It is wise to have assistance or a spotter when using a ladder whenever possible.
We remind our readers that fire safety is aimed at fire prevention as well as having a fire action plan. All homes should have functional smoke alarms to alert you to a fire, fire extinguishers for use when appropriate for a contained small fire, and an escape plan in case of fire. And with visitors coming in for the holidays, make sure they know the fire plan as well.
Your Fire District family wishes you a joyous and safe holiday season!